Jane Akinyi, a resident of Nyandiwa in Homa Bay County, is a happy woman.
She lives not far from from Lake Victoria, one of the largest fresh-water lakes in the world, but like other residents, she, for years, forced to toil to get clean and safe water for the family.
“Women used to walk several kilometres to the rivers to seek water, and, often, the long queues at the only water points in the region would mean you could waste the whole day waiting. This meant chores at home would remain undone, resulting in other challenges,” says Akinyi.
But now, things are looking up. Government water development agencies are bringing the essential but rare commodity to rural communities in Nyanza and Rift Valley.
The use of solar panels in water projects initiated by Lake Victoria North Water Works Development Agency, Lake Victoria South Water Works Development Agency, North Rift Valley Water Works Development Agency and the Central Rift Valley Water Works Development Agency have played an important role in reducing greenhouse emissions as it has improved air quality and has low environmental impact.
“I have nothing more to say than thank God for remembering us and the people who have made the completion of this water project here possible,” says Akinyi.
The region has five solar-power water pumps that has made the hardships a thing of the past.
More than 700 households in seven villages are served by the project, which has given them access to clean water for drinking and cooking, while protecting water catchment areas around the local rivers.
Engineer Evans Wambua, consultant of last mile water and sanitation project funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in partnership with the government, told the Saturday Standard that usage of solar panels is more cost effective compared to using electricity.
“With solar panels, the cost of pumping water is zero as we only rely on the sun, which is a natural resource. This means, it will be cheaper for the communities to have clean and safe water in their homes, institutions such as schools and hospitals as well as hotels and other businesses,” he says.
This means the supplying company will only rely on electricity as a back-up plan especially during the rainy season when the sun is not reliable. So far, the system has been reliable and efficient in terms of how constant they supply water to their customers.
In the Nyamira-Kisii last mile project, the solar pumped water is already benefiting institutions such as schools and hospitals and it targets around 3,500 consumers.
In the Migori-Isebania project, the assistant resident engineer for last mile connectivity Harry Kiche says the project has been able to connect close to 2,000 homesteads and targets 20,000 beneficiaries for the entire project.
Isebania being an expansive town, the water supplying company cannot rely on the ground tanks to supply water to far- flung areas therefore had to put elevated towers to enable the water flow to far areas using gravity.
“Aside from this dynamic being a sustainable energy, it will ensure water supply is constant as there will be no frequent disconnection of electricity due to pending bills. With high electricity tariffs, solar panels will be cut-costing,” he said.
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Kiche said that with the objective of the last mile project being to ensure availability of adequate water, solar use will ensure water is distributed constantly and at an affordable cost and thus reach more residents.
Also, with zero revenue going out for payments of electricity bills, the water company is expected to increase its income revenue.
To ensure the energy remains sustainable, there are plans to acquire batteries which will be used in storing the solar energy for future use. Unlike traditional handpumps, solar-powered systems can be used for water storage and water supply for multiple purposes.